Hong Kong democracy activists have been campaigning to have the city's leader elected directly in 2007, when a new chief executive is due, but a Beijing representative says there would be no change to a decision by China's parliament ruling that out.

"On the issue of direct elections in 2007/08, the decision made by the National People's Congress is final," Li Gang, deputy director of China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, told a city cable TV network on Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Thursday to demand more political freedom and to challenge the refusal this year by the National People's Congress to allow them to elect the city's chief executive.

"It is unwise to try to achieve what is unachievable. Such demands are against the current atmosphere of dialogue and communication in the society," Li said.

Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" agreement between former colonial ruler Britain and China that paved the way for the city's return to Chinese rule in 1997.

But China is believed to fear that the growing demand for democracy in Hong Kong could spill over into the mainland and threaten one-party communist rule.

Instability fears

A veteran pro-Beijing politician in Hong Kong said the willingness of Hong Kong people to take to the streets to press their demands could lead to instability.

"(Hong Kong) has fundamentally changed to a people-power society," David Chu, who is also a deputy to the NPC, was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post newspaper on Saturday.

"If the Hong Kong and central governments do not address this change quickly, then there will be instability," he said.